Today was my grandmother's funeral, the last of my grandparents.
Funerals are sad things. Even when the deceased lived a long life -- as my grandmother did, almost making it to her 95th birthday -- the recognition that you'll no longer walk into a room to see her, or hear about something she's done, or even feel guilty that you missed sending her a birthday card sneaks up on you throughout the day. You can go from being perfectly fine to verging on tears in the blink of an eye without any warning.
Funerals are also stressful things. Trying to find some calm from looking at an empty body in a casket that just never seems to look quite right -- mouth too tightly shut, eyes too tightly closed -- is near impossible for me. Then there's the stress of trying to figure out what exactly I'm supposed to do there. And of being introduced to people I've never met, whose names I'll immediately forget. And of trying not to cry, or trying to cry.
Funerals are also great things. They bring together family from far and wide -- family you haven't seen in a long time (whether by fate or by choice), family you've never met, and family you think you're supposed to remember but can't quite place. Cousins you knew as infants who now have children of their own. The day is full of talk about how beautiful or adorable or well-behaved such-and-such a child is, and my how they've grown up so fast.
I recognize that I am, for the most part, a loner. I try not to rely too heavily on my friends and my family. But today, my grandmother's funeral reminded me, as all funerals should, what a family is and what it means. It isn't just a group of people who by chance are linked together by common ancestors. A family, especially in a time like this, is a support group. It's a shared past. It's a collective memory that comes together to remind itself of its past joys and sorrows.
A funeral gives a family a time to come together and replenish itself, and to remind us that, even as we go our wildly separate ways, there are things we share, common touch points in our past that shaped who we are, though they shaped us in vastly different ways.
And I was reminded of that today. And I'm thankful.
So here's a little song that I dedicate to my family. It's accompanied by adorable pictures of my own two boys, but it goes out to my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all their kids, my entire extended family. If you or someone you love has ever had the surname Hollandbeck, this is for you (and I apologize for the sound quality):